5 Tips for Effective Brainstorming While Working From Home

Brainstorming is a technique used to defeat defined problems or to generate innovative ideas, usually conducted in controlled conditions and a free-thinking environment. It is a group activity used to draw links between ideas and identified potential solutions.

Being accustomed to meeting each other in person and discussing, a lot of us believe that distance created due to adapting the remote working style can hamper the content creation process. Lack of participation and enthusiasm from an individual can kill the vibe. However, remote working brings its own benefits to the brainstorming process. Remote working results in higher employee engagement, employee satisfaction and increased productivity.

There are usually two ways for people to brainstorm in the office. First is going to the meeting room and writing down all the ideas on the board. Second is roaming around the office looking for inspiration and ideas to sparkle. These possibilities are eliminated when you are working remotely. During remote working, the comfort and multiple breaks in between to relax can either lead to wastage of time or help you come up with creative work. Brainstorming alone is sometimes better compared to being in a place where an entire room watches you thinking.

In the times of lockdown, where most of us are working from home or if you are someone who prefers to work in isolation or have shifted to a remote working method recently, read this blog further to know the tips to ace the brainstorming strategy.

Use a suitable brainstorming tool

In the office you have the whiteboard and sticky notes. In the online world we get lost and confused in the continuous long email threads. While working remotely, you can use various collaborative tools available for brainstorming including an online mind-map plotting tool.

For example, even an online whiteboard like ‘Miro’ or ‘Creately’ enables you to brainstorm efficiently in real-time. It has additional features such as adding post-its, taking notes, giving comments, allowing to vote on ideas, etc. Most of them even provide ready templates to follow. It gives the benefit of visual thinking and allows you to present with the rest of the team. You can store it for future reference too.

Miro ideation brainstorming
Image: Miro ideation brainstorming – Source

Google drive or dropbox can be used to share files and edit together. Open communication channels like Slack can also be used to allow sharing of links or to get the conversation flowing while conducting brainstorming sessions.

Conduct meetings with a set agenda

Get on a video call with your group. Set the agenda of the meeting, so you aren’t wasting time. Inform others at least one day prior to the brainstorming time. This will create a common base for thinking. People are aware about the set expectations in advance. With enough time to prepare, people will feel confident, energized and will increase the engagement rate too. Hence, a group can then be generative and be able to create multiple options for discussion.

If there is any contextual knowledge about the project or the brainstorming technique being used, educate other participants about that in advance. Defining the goals to be achieved during the brainstorming session is essential, as it helps to be on track and leads to less wastage of time.

Make sure you don’t do it all on the video call. Take feedback from each participant after the video call to assess the ideas better. This will help uncover critical points or even provide for more details.

Implement various brainstorming techniques

After gathering people and ensuring the use of needed tools, it is time to know what works the best for you or the team during brainstorming. There are a lot of brainstorming techniques that can be used.

Below are some options you can consider:

  • Rapid ideation – It works on the concept that time limitations can ignite ideas quickly. The time pressure will help you avoid overthinking or filtering each idea. Provide the participants with a time limit to pen down their ideas on a specific topic.
  • Starbusting – Focus on forming questions rather than finding answers. Challenge the team to come up with every possible question around the topic mentioned. This makes sure that all the parts of the topic are addressed and not overlooked.
  • Figuring Storming – Imagine being in someone else’s shoes and what they might think about the topic. They will bring in more perspectives from different angles. Imagine being in the role of a customer, competitor, supplier, etc.. This can get you varied answers as people react differently and hence their responses differ.

Go for solo generation

According to the group thinking theory, when generating ideas together, people start to think alike, converging to one similar solution. Try generating potential ideas on your own. Working remotely and coordinating with the team on their differing schedules is a tedious task. Sometimes, going for a walk and noting down the ideas that pop in your head is the way to go. Build on the ideas that you have come up with, check the feasibility and work on the execution.

It is always recommended that the first stage of idea generation is done solo. Later if you have a team, everyone can combine their ideas, find links and come up with an optimum solution.

Check the brainstorming behavior list

During remote working, your body language won’t speak for what you are thinking. However, knowing how to behave and deal during this whole process is vital. We have made a list of certain points that you can keep in mind when you are virtual working with your team for brainstorming.

  • Take the lead – Brainstorming session is collaborative in nature, though you will find everyone not taking a part or the discussion losing its track. Take the lead and be the guiding hand. Check in on everyone. Make sure you attain the goals of the session.
  • Be flexible – You can face a lot of strange or unique ideas. Always be accepting. Those can prove to be inspiring and can lead to another great idea. If there is a clash of opinions or fights during the sessions, be forgiving and accept your mistakes too. Be flexible to not follow the plan or go through the set agendas if any issues arise.
  • Be open to feedback – Being openminded is the key to effective brainstorming sessions. Always look for room for improvement. Reach out to your teammates and listen to the feedback that they offer. Make sure you value their inputs. Feedback can help you improve in future brainstorming sessions.
  • Hold back criticism – Once everyone has the same thought process or works on the same pattern, prioritize on the quantity of ideas. A lot of them will be redundant or unrealistic. Do not criticize the person. Encourage them to build on the good ones or distract their mind to another task.

Remember this – “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” – Alex Osborn

Brainstorming is an essential part of the idea generation stage. Working remotely provides the chances of bringing a diversity of ideas. Has less scope of getting influenced by ideas of others, while still allowing the scope of multiple thoughts from everyone. Working remotely can also provide engaging sessions.

Next time you start with the brainstorming session, make sure you follow the above mentioned tips for generating excellent ideas and productive outputs.

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Ashutosh Garg
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